Monday, June 26, 2006

Boston Invitational 2006-Write-Up


The day started off rainy, so I hung out underneath the shelter at Frisbee Central. This meant getting to watch Dog play Potomac on field 8, which also meant, of course, getting to see all of Al's turnover's. Dog definitely took some time to find their groove, and I noticed, in most of the first round games, that the pace was a bit off from what I was expecting. I moved quickly to check out Clapham on field 7, and they're a fun team to watch. Nothing earth shattering, but good skills and they run hard. I moved on to check out the new-look Brute squad, and I must say that it is a bit jarring to see the Godiva players wearing Brute shirts. They look very solid throughout the day. In the end, a New Boston Team was put together and Godiva vets like Mo, VY, and Sarah Cook showed up. They pulled off an upset of Lotus 13-12 in the first round, but ended up 4th in the pool. While there seems to be a desire to continue the Godiva pedigree, I think the general sense was that this "NBT" team was a pick-up team.

I moved on to check out Metal playing Sub. Close game. Metal seemed more comfortable with longer possessions than in the past. They ended up beating Sub by 1, I believe, and ended up winning their pool, which was great.

I checked in on the Mixed Div and things seemed to be running fine. The first real news of the day was Camelot beating 6TM 14-12. 6TM was inconsistent on offense, but looked pretty good when I was looking on. Camelot is very defined about their approach, and they seem more active and aggressive on D than in years past. Lorne displayed high sportsmanship, as usual. I saw him quietly intervene two times when his players had made calls, and both times his teammates changed their calls. I am not much for the whole "the disc never lies" karma thing, but I did think at the time that if Camelot overturned those calls that they would win the game.

I went for a run during round three.

I got back from run in time to eat some lunch and pick out a seat for the Dog-Clapham game. It was around this time, during a conversation, that I got my first (of 2-3) "Is that going to go into your blog?" comment. That was a bit weird. It will probably get to the point where I will need to define if my conversations are on or off the record.

The Dog-Clapham game began with a lot of pace. Good offense and defense on both sides. The gentleman that Al mentioned talking to beat Zip deep for a goal early on. You don't see that very often. Dog got a Callahan goal late in the first half. Both teams tried some standard cup zone. Someone commented that the zone looks seemed as much or more about slowing the pace down than trying to get a block. Al threw a lot of hammers. Zip seemed to have a good day and I was impressed by Paul V's work on O.

After gathering scores in the Mixed Division, I came back to check out the Dog-Metal crossover. I was a bit disappointed that the game was meaningless from a formats point of view, but I was pleasantly surprised by the overall level of intensity. Unfortunately, early on, Dog made The Worst Call of the Day when a strip was called that took away a Callahan goal for Metal. I was about 15 yards away and had a good angle. Metal clearly gained possession first. The thing that bothered me as a spectator was that the call came across as "We're Dog. Callahan's don't happen to us". I am not saying that this was the intention of the player that made the call and I do trust that he acted fairly, but it did feel like one of a few examples over the weekend of "when the going gets tough...out come the calls". To digress for a moment, the refereeing debacles at the World Cup have reinforced my feeling that those who think that adding refs alone will take our sport to the next level are at best misguided, but if I am going to be candid, it's calls like that strip call that are frustrating for the spectators and make me wonder if self-officiating will go down as a failed social experiment. Honestly, I lost interest in the game at that point and slowly made my way around to check out Brute Squad again. As I was leaving field 8, though, Dog turned the disc over in the end zone they were attacking, and after some good defense, Jim P called a stall on the person he was guarding. After a brief discussion, Jim overturned his call and Metal promptly converted the break. While it might seem hokey, I left with my confidence in self-officiating intact. I was glad to hear that these calls were not the difference makers in the game as Metal went up by 3 or 4 after half, but was unable to close out. Dog ended up winning 15-13.

I stopped in on the Brute-Stella game, and Brute was very much in control. I talked with Beth N a bit after the game, and I agreed with her that seemed slightly tired on D. I was not impressed with Stella's throws and Brute seemed to be a much deeper team.

I finished the day checking out the 1v2 pool play games in the Mixed Division. When I got to the 6TM-Puppet Regime game, Puppet was up 6-1. One of my Wellesley girls, Ralph, is trying out for 6TM, and she made a very nice block which began a run for 6TM. Puppet played inconsistently all day and ended up losing 13-11. As this is Puppet's first tournament of the year, one gets the feeling like the wheels are just getting going for them. They will be fine in a few months. 6TM also had an inconsistent day, and they are very much just beginning to get a feel for what their roster will look like for 06. It will be very different from previous years, and as Marshall said "We got some work to do". I moved over to the Slow White-Amp game as SW scored to make it 10-9. This game probably had the highest pace of any mixed game I watched. Both teams were playing well on both sides of the disc. Jasper had some very nice long throws for Slow White, and Doc did a good job of running the show for Amp. I would not be surprised if the finals was a rematch of this game.


There was only one team with anything truly at stake in Open quarters and it was Clapham. A win against Goat would put them in semis and give them the chance, due to a bye, to watch England in the round of 16. As consolation semis occurred in the next round, there was clearly much to play for and Clapham seemed very fired up and won pretty easily. They played good defense and were able to convert their breaks. In general, Clapham does nothing very different. They like to break the mark on O, and they can play good D when they have energy. I did find that their overall pace fluctuated quite a bit from game to game.

After Clapham secured their victory, about 40 folks descended upon Frisbee Central when the word got out that Tommy had brought his satellite dish to the fields plus 3!! TV's. His efforts were met with great cheers by the Clapham guys, and it was fun to watch the game with them and get a glimpse of real appreciation for the game.

I went to check in on Brute Squad in their quarters game. They were very on all weekend and seemed to be more athletic and have better skills than everyone else. I was quite impressed, and they cruised to the championship without being really challenged. Congrats to them on a great start to the season!

I found the Open semis to be a bit low key. I was very impressed with Dog's man defense over the weekend and they handled Sub Zero 15-11. In the other semi, Clapham was a bit slow to get going and Metal jumped out to an early lead that they held to a 15-11 win. Clapham plays a very clean game and makes very few calls as does Metal, so their semi was a good show of athleticism. Clapham looked long at the end of the game, and in one exciting sequence, Rob A was able to go deep for a huge gainer to the end zone line, but his push pass attempt to a teammate running by him fluttered in the wind...big groans from the crowd.

The Open final was played with a lot of intensity and it was very fun to watch. I would say that a key part of the game is that Dog's O just seemed easier. They had a few 2 or 3 pass points, while Metal had to work very hard and throw a lot of passes against both Dog's person and zone D looks. I think Metal's willingness to possess the disc bodes well for them, but they had to work a lot harder than Dog. Zip made some huge cuts for Dog and was a factor on both sides of the disc. Ryan (newly in from Pike) made a great layout grab for a goal, but Dog took half by a couple. Jeff G had a lot of energy for this game and had great ups, but several times was working against double coverage (twice it was both Mahoney brothers). Brian Stout, whose body type might be the prototype for the future of Ultimate, had two huge D's followed once by a goal and the second by a big layout grab. This second grab, though, was brought back due a travel call, so instead of it being 12-10 it ended up 13-9....that is a big momentum shift. Dog was able to close the game out at 15-11. I was very impressed with Dog's intensity over the weekend. They ran very well and played good defense. They deserve congratulations for their second Boston Invite championship in a row. If I have any negative comments at all, it was that I felt that the other semis teams called cleaner games over the course of the weekend, but that is just my opinion.

Mixed quarters went to seed, and I spent some time watching semis. Slow White jumped out on Camelot 8-3, but Camelot made a game out of it before losing 14-12. Slow White had tightened their rotation for this game and Camelot did have a bit of trouble matching up. Overall, though, I thought Camelot made a great showing. They have strong women and men players, and Lorne really runs their O very well. In the other quarters, Amp continued their strong weekend by beating 6TM 15-6. It looked like 6TM struggled on O.

The finals, as I predicted, was a rematch of pool play. I got there at the beginning of the second half as Slow White went up 9-8 over Amp. They trade to 11-11. Both teams are running tight rotations. Slow White is getting good long throws from Teddy, but Amp is very good at possessing the disc. Doc runs the O with confidence, and Jeff is a strong D handler and his ability to run the D's offense should be a source of confidence for them this year. The teams trade until 11-11, then Rosie put up a throw for Teddy at the back of the end zone, but he can't grab it as it goes out the back. Amp works it all the way down field for the big break, 12-11. Amp secures another break to go up 13-11, and then, Teddy gets footblocked about 15 yards out of Slow White's end zone. Teddy gets the disc back with a huge block, but the teams trade turnovers. Then Sloppy gets a big catch in the end zone to bring it to 13-12. Amp displays confidence in their ability to possess the disc, and the teams trade to a 15-13 win for Amp. Amp looks very good this year, and I can see why the loss of Doc last year was a big deal. They have fast and athletic women and their overall rotation is tight and organized. I am going to be very interested to see how their Philly Invite tournament plays out as most of the top Mid-Atlantic and NE teams will be there. So congrats to Amp on their win in Boston!

As usual, Tommy and Barbara ran a great show and the teams seemed appreciative. We were lucky to avoid the rain that swamped other parts of our area.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Boston Invitational 2006: Top 3 Stories

Boston in late June. The Boston Invitational kicks us off into summer with 60+ teams sharing the fields at Devens, MA. Many of the teams are getting final looks at their tryouts and are preparing to make decisions about what their roster will look like for the UPA Champ Series. While there will be lots of shuffling around after this weekend as recently cut players will seek other avenues, for this weekend, at least, there is still the promise and hope of carving out a spot on the number one option.

The new season comes to us with the promise of goals to achieve, but with that also comes uncertainty in the face of changing rosters and leadership. This uncertainty is of interest to us observers as it signals a change in the landscape. A change to the understood order. This weekend will be the first time we get to see the results of what occurred over the winter and spring, and we will try, probably unrealistically, to get a sense of how these changes will play out come the fall.

So, going into this tournament, my top three points of interest are:

1) The New Boston Team-Brute Squad fallout

We all saw it on RSD. I put it on this blog. Leaders of Brute Squad were going to merge with the ashes of Lady Godiva and form a New Boston Team. Well, it didn't happen. The core group leading the change ended up going back to Brute. I have heard rumors that the New Boston Team is very young, with many recent college graduate tryouts, and that many of the Godiva vets have jumped ship to play on other teams including Brute and West Coast options. Sounds like there will be no clear and direct heir to the Godiva pedigree this season. Sitting here, it seems that Brute has the momentum right now, but I am going to be very curious about what this New Boston Team looks like.

2) Mixed: Phase 2

The Mixed Division benefits from getting an additional tournament in Mixed Easterns, so it will be interesting to see the teams after their initial cuts and recruiting efforts. Slow White and 6TM have had very different springs. Slow White had a robust recruiting year, and it seems like their big guns like Teddy and Jaspar have declined other options in an effort to build upon the 05 love. They brought two squads to Mixed Easterns, and I must say that the 20 or so players that may have been cut between then and now would make for a pretty good team. 6TM is facing a rebuilding year. There will be lots of turnover this year: Keri Dorko, Joggles, and Lauren Casey have all graduated from college and have moved on. LJ and Mary Hunt Martin have also moved on. Jay Clyne and Hunt won't be around this weekend. Holly and Olen have moved to the mid-west. Adam Goff is healing from surgery. Both these teams face pressure and expectations, so it will be interesting to see how they handle it.

3) Clapham

I am very interested in seeing the Brits play and they do bring some interest to the somewhat same old-same old Open Elite div. This is not to say that I won't be hanging out watching this div, it is just that other than Clapham it is the usual suspects: Pike, Dog, Metal, Goat, Sub, etc. One of my big goals for the weekend is to actually introduce myself to Timmy.

So does Clapham have a shot at semis? I have no clue. I just know that I would want to be playing them around 11am on Sunday morning...assuming that England wins Pool B. My prediction? Fire is thrown in the "Go ahead, mate, take the PT, I will back at the hotel watching the round of 16" rosham.


Monday, June 12, 2006

What is the story?

I am pretty excited about the US vs Czech game today. As their path through the "group of death" begins, I am going to be very curious to see how they manage the experience. I spoke to a friend the other day who said "Of course, you know they are not going to get into the finals". Get into the finals? Even in the light of their great showing of 2002, getting into the round of 16 will be a great feat this year and we cannot burden our team with the expectation that advancing is a given. Of course, I have heard the usual comments about how boring soccer is, and I listen with great sympathy as the person lays out for me, without insight, their inability to concentrate for longer than it takes for the TV to show the replay of a football play. People are entitled to their opinions, of course, but these types of comments, combined with some assumptions we make about Ultimate, have made me wonder about what it is that attracts us to sports and makes us invest, as fans, in the experience of athletics and cheering for our teams. I think we think we know....but I am not so sure that we do.

If you were to ask most people what they like about watching sports, they might say "because it is exciting". I agree, but what, exactly, makes sports exciting? If we go back to soccer, it would seem that a big problem is the lack of scoring, and this is what makes it unexciting. If the amount of scoring was tied inexorably to excitement, however, baseball would have died a long time ago (I know that some folks think it has) and arena football would be the most popular thing on TV. I strongly disagree with the assumption that scoring equates to excitement. For me, excitement is a build-up to, and the anticipation of, future events. The most obvious is the pitcher holding the ball with the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. There were points during the 04 Yankees-Boston playoff series when the drama (read: excitement) was almost unbearable, and I am not a big fan of either baseball or the Red Sox. I was a fan of baseball during that series, though, and I have no idea what the scores were in those games. Ultimate has a similar moment as well, of course, and waiting for the pull can be great drama. This is not to say that photo finishes are the only means of generating excitement, they are just the most obvious. Watching great execution or an athlete struggling to overcome the odds are also obviously exciting in their own right (although the Olympics TV coverage has shamelessly disintegrated into trying to generate "human interest" stories for every single athlete. After a while it becomes humorous and the attempt to tweak our heartstrings, and interest, fails). I can see why we want to tie scoring to excitement. It is an easy and objective means of measurement. Perhaps we should cherish and appreciate just how difficult it is to hit a round ball with a round bat or kick the ball into a soccer net. Perhaps the difficulty of these tasks is what makes the sport beautiful. Personally, I view the rule changes in hockey, which have lead to routine 9-5 scores, as an insult and has made me view watching hockey as a "doctored" or, perhaps, patronizing experience.

We also use athleticism as a means for explaining enjoying sports, and I do not think it is a coincidence that this is another parameter that can be objectively measured. A few weeks ago, I was teaching Ultimate clinics in a local high school, and the head of the PE Dept, who has become a friend, said to me during a conversation about kids playing sports, "Baseball isn't even a's a pastime". This after praising Ultimate. Again, baseball is a convenient example of how it can't be raw athleticism that attracts us to sports. I think, in the Ultimate world, we frequently hear the assumption that fans want to see the most athletic (read: the men) Ultimate and that this is the only possible way to promote our sport. I don't know about you, but in one of the rare displays of women playing Ultimate on Ultivillage in the NACS video, I was much more interested in Miranda breaking the mark with a low release forehand than I was with the first Open clip of some bad choice floaty huck into the end zone. I have said it before, but the 99 women's world cup was as compelling, athletically speaking, as any men's world cup I have watched. Other examples of why watching the best athletes play is not the sole factor in determining our interest as fans are the popularity of college football and college basketball.

Of course, athleticism and scoring goals factor into our enjoyment of sports, but I think it is good stories that really draw us in as we enjoy drama, suspense, context, and history as much in sports as we do in a good book or movie. Perhaps this is why sports can make great movies and books. One of the better sports books I have read recently is "The Last Amateurs" by John Feinstein. This is a great book about the Patriot League in college basketball. It is a compelling story about the least athletic and most unknown college players in the country. We have great stories in Ultimate that encompass all the elements of great drama. NY(KD) vs Boston(Moons) is perhaps the most famous. Hector wrote eloquently about the CUT vs Wisconsin rivalry in his blog. Lady Godiva's commitment to excellence and their ensuing success over the years. Red Tide over Darkhorse in 1998. Stanford women's Ultimate. Our stories are a serious asset, but they require knowledge and perspective on the part of the fans and it is challenging to make them familiar enough with the stories to buy in. My friend in the PE Dept said, "If baseball didn't have 150 years of history, we wouldn't care". Ultimate is young and we need to have patience for the time when the stories will be bolstered enough by context and history that every article in the newspaper and every program won't feel it has to present itself as an introduction to the sport.

Next week, my post will follow this post's lead and present the interesting stories for the upcoming Boston Invitational. In the meantime, I am going to spend this afternoon watching, with rare patriotism, our boys fight in the group of death. Will they emerge? I have no idea, but I am excited to see what happens.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Mixed Easterns: Brief Recap

The first (and only) "What the Hell am I doing?"(see my Golf Cart Boy post) of the weekend came as I opened my front door at 6:45am on Saturday morning to get in my car and drive to the fields. I was greeted by pouring rain. I turned around to see my daughter, still in pj's, curled up with a nice blanket in front of the TV. I almost bailed....but duty called.

By the time I got to the fields, the rain was more of a drizzle. The fields, which were quite dry when we lined them on Thursday, were draining very well, and were actually in very nice condition. The Devens staff has done a remarkable job with the fields, and the conditions never got sloppy, even when it poured rain during the last round on Sat. We are very lucky to have access to that facility and I am appreciative that the teams seem to have got the message that we need to respect the fields and the facility.

I was also quite pleased that all 32 teams showed up. I had alternate versions of the format ready...all the way down to 28 teams, but, thankfully, none of that was needed. Tommy, Barbara, and Eric ran a great show as usual. They really have the details down. For example, on the trainers golf cart, they have a field map taped to the steering wheel, so that it is easy to find where injured players are. They have a stop watch for the caps. The fields are lined, and the registration process, thanks to on-line rostering, went smoothly.

You can see all the results here:

All the pools, except for C, F, and G went to seed. Pool G ended up with Harpoon taking the pool and RIP (who upset WMD in the first round), WMD, and Gratuitous tied at 1-2. RIP, who started off with the big win, ended up in 4th place, and WMD, who finished 6th overall, came precariously close to not qualifying for the championship bracket. In pool C, SPAWN began their run to a great weekend by upsetting GCAS, which was basically 6 Trained Monkeys running their tryouts. In pool F, Tandem, basically Brown Alumni, began their run to the championship in strong form with two 15-1 wins. Tandem, not surprisingly, has very good skills and is fundamentally rock solid. They did not seem bothered by the rain at all. Many of the players have College rings, and they ran a crisp and efficient offense that demonstrated the pedigree of the Brown program. (Kyle, was that OK? Balanced??)

The last round on Saturday was crossover games, and featured only one 3 seed over a 2 seed as MHUC beat Enough Monkeys. The top 3 of pool A ended up finishing 2nd and tied for 11th. Blackfly, on their way to the 11th place finish, beat 7Express in this round, furthering the NY teams slide from the 11 seed to a 24th place finish.

It rained very hard in the 4th round and pretty much most of the evening. By Sunday morning, the rain had subsided, and the fields were in fine shape, considering the conditions.

The Championship Bracket began with a round of 16 that had two upsets: WMD, the 9 seed, beat SPAWN 15-7, and GCAS, the 10 seed, beat Harpoon 11-7. Slow White, who brought a split squad due to a strong recruiting year, continued both their teams strong showing with 15-3 wins in this round.

In Quarters, WMD gave SW X a run for their money as they lost 12-10. WMD seemed to ramp up over the weekend after their rough start. Chinstrap overcame a deficit to defeat Philly KRU 15-14.

At this point, there were 5 teams in the 9th place bracket that wanted to qualify for the Boston Invitational, so that was a bit exciting. MHUC and Gecko ended up finishing 9th and 11th to secure the at-large bids to the BI.

Both Semis were close affairs. Tandem went up a couple of breaks over SW Y, but SW Y made a late run as the time cap went off. At 12-12, Tandem put up a long throw which was caught on the end zone line, at this point, the hard cap went off, Tandem scored to win 13-12. In the other semi, SW X edged Chinstrap 12-9 to earn a rematch with Tandem.

Both teams seemed a bit fatigued in the final, but Tandem continued with good offensive efficiency and took home the Mixed Easterns Championship Trophy.

So, congratulations to Tandem and to Gecko and MHUC for qualifying for the Boston Invitational.

The tournament was a great success even with the weather. Teams seem to like playing at this venue and appreciate the attention to detail that Tommy and Barbara provide.

A quick note about the other divisions:

Big Ego Ultimate (basically old dog) avenged their finals loss to Above and Beyond in 05 and took home the Masters Easterns Trophy. Jim took the time to remind me of what number championship this was for him, but I forgot what it was as it was too large to remember.

In the Youth Division, Amherst High School brought a Mixed team to the Open Division and won both the Massachusetts title(over Lincoln-Sudbury) and the New England title(over Amherst JV A....that's right there is a JV B as well). I watched them play a bit and they are very fundamentally sound as well as disciplined. I know that Hh posted some derogatory crap on the Ultimatetalk chat line about "indoctrination", but frankly, if any club team played like that...we would call it good Ultimate. It seems a bit precious for folks to take it upon themselves to decide when it is or isn't good for our young players to have the opportunity to play good Ultimate. It is hard for me to see how offering the opportunity of high standards and positive behavioral values can be bad for our young players.

So, as usual, this weekend provided an overall look at our past and future. That opportunity is a rare one, and, again, thanks to Tommy Proulx for his vision.